Remove the mask


One of the ways in which my 24-year-old son and I bond and catch up with each other is over a midweek supper (at my house!) and a movie, usually at the local Odeon. 

It’s often a challenge finding a movie we can both watch.  As he agreed to watch A Star is Born for me (wow, what a heart-breaker), I agreed to watch the latest Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis.  I remember the original. Watched on a rented TV from Radio Rentals.  I was terrified.  I don’t mind horror movies too much, but I hate those Halloween masks and now that this event is such a big deal in the UK, you can’t avoid them. 

What is it about masks we don’t like? Well, they unnerve us as they don’t show you the true person as they are hidden.

But how many of us wear masks every day?

When I was running my PR company in the 90s, I learned lots of boardroom tricks. Women smile to please; men smile when pleased. Note to Self: don’t smile like a loon. Sit in a power position at the boardroom table (never with your back to the door). Match and mirror the power player to create rapport. Modulate your voice. It was exhausting!   

And like many, I had an internal dialogue saying things like: “These people have MBA’s, I went to a Comprehensive school in Notts. Someone is going to figure out that I’m flying by the seat of my pants and it will all come crashing down around me”.

Ah, the Imposter Syndrome.

I met a billionaire recently who revealed he can’t enjoy his early retirement and money as he feels he did nothing incredible to gain it and that he doesn’t deserve it. He is an imposter. Check out most people in boardrooms and they are probably feeling the same. Their internal dialogue is: “Behind this mask, I’m terrified. If I stay quiet and nod occasionally, maybe I can pull it off.”

Faced with such feelings, many turn to the comfort of control. They adopt patterns of behaviour that seek to control their external environment. They start to walk a line line between orderliness and OCD.

Or they create a mask. A ‘nothing bothers me’ mask for a man. Perhaps wearing a lot of make up for a woman. I like make-up, but I’m also happy to scrunch my hair up and go out without any.  I don’t need it to feel OK.

What your subconscious mind is saying in this instance is: “I can’t control that scary external world where I’m not really protected, so I can gain certainty and control by wearing a mask or making everything orderly. As long as the dishwasher has all the spoons together, forks together and knives together, then I’m in charge, all is well and I can feel OK.”

But you are not.  Life throws curved balls. Human interactions, love, families etc. are messy.  We don’t ourselves behave according to plan so don’t be thrown when others don’t either. 

Vulnerability and humanity (and humility) are key.  You don’t need a mask.  You don’t need a perfect dishwasher. 

Sit for a while and work out what mask you wear.  Ask yourself: ‘What is the worst thing that can happen if I remove it?’.  Then go for it.  Take it off.  You can read my book or many others that will help you. I recommend highly ‘Daring Greatly’, by Brené Brown.  She says: “Vulnerability is at the core, the centre, of meaningful human experiences”